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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 March, 2005, 14:40 GMT 15:40 UK
Egyptian actor Zaki dies aged 55
By Attila Kulcsar
BBC regional analyst

Ahmed Zaki
Zaki famously portrayed presidents Nasser and Sadat
One of Egypt's leading actors, Ahmed Zaki, has died at the age of 55 in Cairo after a long illness.

The film star had been suffering from lung cancer since early last year and had been in a coma for several weeks.

For more than 35 years, Zaki impressed both critics and ordinary cinema-goers in comic, romantic and tragic roles.

He played Egyptian presidents Gamal Abdul Nasser and Anwar Sadat in two films seen as landmarks of Arab cinema.

Lively debate

Zaki was born into a poor family in rural Zagazig in the Nile Delta north of Cairo.

Perhaps because of his humble origins ordinary people felt close to him.

Early in his career, Zaki starred in roles that embodied the hopes of deprived rural Egyptian youth.

Many of his films had a political message.

In His Excellency the Minister, he depicted a member of the government wracked by guilt over his involvement in corruption and abuse of authority.

But his greatest successes were playing the two presidents, sparking lively national debate on their legacies.

Before he slipped into a coma this month, Zaki received calls from President Hosni Mubarak - whom the actor had also planned to portray in a film role.

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